San Francisco During the Eventful Days of April 1906(txt+pdf+epub+mobi电子书下载)

作者:Stetson, James B. (James Burgess)

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San Francisco During the Eventful Days of April 1906

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Personal Recollections During the Eventful Days of April, 1906

As the earthquake and the great fire in San Francisco in the year 1906 were events of such unusual interest, and realizing how faulty is man's memory after time passes, I have here jotted down a few incidents which I personally observed, and shall lay them away, so that if in the future I should desire I can refer to these notes, made while the events were new and fresh in my mind, with some assurance of their accuracy.

On the morning of April 18, 1906, at 5:13, in my residence, 1801 Van Ness Avenue, I was awakened by a very severe shock of earthquake. The shaking was so violent that it nearly threw me out of bed. It threw down a large bookcase in my chamber, broke the glass front, and smashed two chairs; another bookcase fell across the floor; the chandelier was so violently shaken that I thought it would be broken into pieces. The bric-a-brac was thrown from the mantel and tables, and strewed the floor with broken china and glass. It is said to have lasted fifty-eight seconds, but as nearly as I can estimate the violent part was only about twelve seconds.

As soon as it was over I got up and went to the window, and saw the air in the street filled with a white dust, which was caused by the falling of masonry from St. Luke's Church on the diagonal corner from my room. I waited for the dust to settle, and I then saw the damage which had been done to Claus Spreckels's house and the church. The chimneys of the Spreckels mansion were gone, the stone balustrade and carved work wrecked. The roof and the points of the gables and ornamental stone work of the church had fallen, covering the sidewalk and lying piled up against the sides of the building to the depth of eight or ten feet.

About this time Rachel and Nora were knocking, at my door and inquiring if I were alive. I opened the door and they came in, Rachel badly frightened and Nora sprinkling holy water over the room.

I hurriedly dressed and went up, to my daughter's (Mrs. Winslow's) house, 1945 Pacific Avenue, and found her and the children with their neighbors in the street and very much frightened. Their house was cracked considerably, and she had been imprisoned in her room by the binding of the door, which had to be broken open to enable her to escape. The chimneys of her house were thrown down and much valuable glass and chinaware broken. I returned to my house and found that the tops of all my chimneys had been thrown down, and one was lying in the front yard sixteen feet from the building. There were some cracks visible in the library, but none in my room, and only very few in the parlor and dining-room. In the kitchen, however, the plastering was very badly cracked and the tiles around the sink thrown out. In the parlor the marble statue of the "Diving Girl" was thrown from its pedestal and broken into fragments. The glass case containing the table glassware in the dining-room and its contents were uninjured; very little china and glassware were broken in the pantry; the clocks were not stopped. A water-pipe broke in the ceiling of the spare room and the water did some damage.

I then went over to the power-house of the California-Street Railroad and found that about seventy feet of the smoke-stack had fallen diagonally across the roof, and about six feet of it into the stable, where were two horses; fortunately it did not touch them, but before they were released they squealed and cried, most piteously. One of them was so badly frightened that he was afterward useless and we turned him out to pasture and he grew lean and absolutely worthless. Things were considerably disturbed, but the engines were apparently uninjured. The watchman was not injured, although surrounded by falling bricks and mortar. I was told that the water supply was stopped, and later learned that it was because the earthquake had broken the water-mains.

I then started on foot down-town, this was about 7 A. M.; no cars were running on any line. The sidewalks in many places were heaved up, chimneys thrown down, and walls cracked by the earthquake. St. Mary's Cathedral and Grace Church gave no outward sign of being injured; neither did the Fairmont Hotel. I went on California Street, over Nob Hill, and as I got in sight of the business part of the city, I saw as many as ten or twelve fires in the lower part of the city. The wind was light from the northwest, and the smoke ascended in great columns, and the sun through it looked like a large copper disk. When I arrived at California and Montgomery streets the lower part of both sides of California Street seemed to be all on fire. I did not realize that the whole city would be burned. I had a vague idea that it would stop, or be stopped, as fires had been hundreds of times before in this city. I went along Sansome Street to Pine and down Pine towards Market. I saw that Holbrook, Merrill & Stetson's store was all on fire, and when I arrived at Front Street I saw that the Commercial Block on the southeast corner of Front and California streets (on the fifth floor of which was my office), was not on fire. So I started to go toward the building. The fire was then burning fiercely at the southeast corner of California and Battery. I went to the entrance at 123 California Street and met the janitor coming out, who said I could not go upstairs, as the building was on fire on the fifth floor. However, I started slowly up. The sparks were coming down into the open area in a shower, but there was no smoke in the building, so I was sure that it was not on fire on the inside. I got up to my room on the fifth floor and found the door would not come open. I tried the door in the adjoining office of the American Beet Sugar Company and found it open. From that room I got into mine. I raised my shades, and the fire was blazing at Battery Street and California, fully seventy-five feet high, and not more than three hundred feet distant from me. I looked through the hall and rooms and saw no smoke, and was sure that I was safe for a few minutes. As I turned the combination of my safe to open it another shock of earthquake came, which confused me a little, but I persevered and opened it. I had a quantity of souvenirs and presents which had been given me in years past. These I gathered up, and with my deeds and insurance and other papers soon had my arms full. I saw a fish-basket on my closet; I got it down and put all these little things in it, then opened the little iron box in the corner of the safe, and there dropped out some coins on the floor. I remembered that I had put four twenty-dollar pieces in there the day before. I felt on the floor and picked up two of them, and as I did not find any more I concluded that they must have remained in the safe; so I took the fish-basket and my books and papers in my arms, closed the safe, turned on the combination, and started down the stairs to the street. The sparks were plentiful in the area when I went up, but they were more so as I came down,—a perfect firestorm, after the manner of a snow-storm. When I got back on to California Street the air was a mass of sparks and smoke being blown down the street toward the ferry. As I had to go against it to get to Front Street, I was afraid that my papers would take fire in my arms; so I buttoned up my coat to protect my papers, pulled my hat over my eyes, and dived through, up California Street and out Front towards Pine Street, from where I started. There I found it clear of smoke and fire. As I passed along with my arms full I saw a typewriter cover on the street, which I picked up. Finding it empty, I stopped and turned it over and, dropping my bundle into it, started for Front and Market Streets. There was no fire within a block of that corner at this time. This was about 8 A. M.—perhaps 8:30. I sat down on an empty box in the middle of Market Street for a rest, when W. R. Whittier came along and helped me with my load. We took it to the door of the Union Trust Company, and they would not let me in. I went upstairs and found Mr. Deering, who took it, and we went down and put it into the vault between the outer and inner doors. (In twenty-two days afterward I received it back in as good condition as when I had left it there on the memorable 18th, of April.) I next went up to Third Street and found the fire raging strong at the corner of Third and Mission. My son was passing in his automobile, and I got in with him. He was going to the Mechanics' Pavilion, where he said he could do some work for the temporary hospital established there. When we reached the Pavilion they said there were two hundred wounded inside. At this hour there was no building on fire on the south line of Market Street west of Fremont Street. We went around to the drug-stores and hardware-stores to get hot-water bags and oil and alcohol stoves and surgeons' appliances. We took with us Miss Sarah Fry, a Salvation Army woman, who was energetic and enthusiastic. When we arrived at a drug-store under the St. Nicholas she jumped out, and, finding the door locked, seized a chair and raising it above her head smashed the glass doors in and helped herself to hot-water bags, bandages, and everything which would be useful in an emergency hospital. I continued with Harry for a couple of hours. I then started down Market Street. The fire at that hour, 10:30 A. M., was raging strong south of Market Street from about Fifth to Tenth Street. I left Market Street and went up on to Golden Gate Avenue. At Hyde and Golden Gate Avenue I saw a large two-story house which had been wrecked by the earthquake. The doors, windows and all the upright-portion of the first story, were crushed and stood on an angle of 45°. I enquired of a woman seated on a pile of rubbish, who said "no one was killed, but what am I to do?" The City Hall was badly wrecked, great cracks were to be seen and about two-thirds of the great dome had fallen. On one of our trips we went out to the Park Emergency Hospital, and at 11 o'clock I found myself in the Pacific Union Club and was able to get a cup of coffee and a sandwich, which was the first food I had tasted that day. I went out from the club and saw the fire raging on Market Street between First and Second. About this hour a policeman notified me to meet the Mayor at the Hall of justice, who had called a meeting of citizens for 2 o'clock. Met Mr. J. E. Tucker—sat down with him on a box in the middle of Market Street, opposite Lotta's Fountain, and we discussed the situation. We agreed that the city was doomed to destruction, and that we were unable to do anything to save it. Crowds of people were about, only looking on—some looked dazed, and others wildly excited. I walked down to Bush Street between Sansome and Montgomery, met Mr. Murphy of the First National Bank, and Herman Oelrichs, and discussed with them as to whether it would come to his building. The earthquake had thrown the heavy granite cornice of his bank building into the middle of Bush Street. Murphy, Grant & Co.'s building was on fire at this time; this was between 1 and 2 P. M.. Went along Montgomery to California Street, and found the fire approaching Montgomery Street. At 3 o'clock it had got to the Palace Hotel on the Mission-Street side, and by 3:30 it was well on fire. About this time I went into the Western Union Telegraph office, and while writing a telegram to Nellie and Robert, who were on their way to New York, the announcement was made that no more telegrams would be received. I then walked home, and at that time the streets leading to Lafayette Square and the Presidio were filled with people dragging trunks and valises along, trying to find a place of safety. They generally landed in the Presidio. As night came on the fire made it as light as day, and I could read without other light in any part of my house. At 8 in the evening. I went downtown to see the situation, going to Grant Avenue through Post Street, then to Sutter, and down Sutter to Montgomery. The fire was then burning the eastern half of the Occidental Hotel and the Postal Telegraph Company's office, on Market Street, opposite Second Street, and other buildings adjoining. At this hour the fire was about a mile and a quarter from my house. The Lick House and the Masonic Temple were not on fire then. I next went to Pine and Dupont Streets, and from that point could see that the Hall of justice and all the buildings in that vicinity were on fire. Very few people were on the street. Goldberg, Bowen & Co. were loading goods into wagons from their store on Sutter Street, between Grant Avenue and Kearny. I attempted to go in to speak to the salesman, with whom I was acquainted, but was harshly driven away, by an officious policeman, as if I was endeavoring to steal something. I came back to my house at 9:30 and found in the library Mr. Wilcox and his mother, Mrs. Longstreet, Dr. and Mrs. Whitney, Mrs. Hicks and her daughter, Sallie, Ruth, and Marie Louise. They were all very much alarmed, as the information which they obtained from the excited throng on the street was of the wildest kind. The two automobiles and the Wilcox carriage stayed in front of the house all night, at an expense of twenty-five dollars per hour for the carriage. I felt tired, and went to bed at 11 P. M. and slept until 2:30 A. M. got up and went down-town again to see what the situation was. I went to California Street, then to Hyde, then to Pine. From Pine and Leavenworth I could see that the fire was at that hour burning along O'Farrell from Jones to Mason and on the east side of Mason Street. The St. Francis Hotel was on fire. I went from Pine and Mason to the Fairmont Hotel at California and Mason. The hill is very steep between these streets, and many people, having exhausted themselves, were sleeping in the street on the paving-stones and on mattresses. I did not think the fire would pass beyond the Fairmont Hotel, as there was hundreds of feet of space between the front or eastern side of the hotel, and any other building. But the fire passed up beyond the hotel on Sacramento Street until it reached a point where the hotel was at the leeward of the flames. The hotel was not finished and in the northeast corner were kept the varnishes and oils, which very much aided in the destruction of the building. From California and Mason Streets I could see that old St. Mary's Church, on the corner of California and Dupont Streets and Grace Cathedral, on the corner of California and Stockton, were on fire. To the north, Chinatown was in a whirlpool of fire. I returned home on California Street and Van Ness Avenue. Both streets were thronged with men, women, and children—some with bundles, packages, and baby-carriages; but the usual method was to drag a trunk, which made a harsh, scraping noise on the sidewalk. I overtook a man dragging a trunk with a valise on the top which kept frequently falling off. As I approached him I took the valise in my hand and with the other took hold of the rope and helped him drag the heavy trunk. As we were strangers, I am sure that he at first took me for a thief who intended to steal the valise. I at once entered into conversation with him, and from his manner later on I think he changed his mind, for when I left him a few blocks away he was hearty in his thanks.

While passing the Knickerbocker Hotel, on Van Ness Avenue, I saw a party of ladies and an elderly gentleman. They were very much excited and were hesitating about returning to their rooms for their personal effects. I stopped and assured them that they had plenty of time to go and return as many times as they wished, as the fire would not reach Van Ness Avenue for at least five hours. It did not reach there for thirteen hours. I think I succeeded in quieting them, at least for a time.

When I arrived at Sacramento Street and Van Ness Avenue I saw a woman tugging at a trunk which had caught on the car-track, and I helped her release it. From the speed at which the fire was traveling I judged that it could not reach that spot in many hours, I advised her, as she was safe, not to over-exert herself, but to take frequent rests. She would not take my advice and I was obliged to leave her.

The throng of moving people, men and women with babies and bird cages, and everything which they held most valuable on earth, began early Wednesday morning and continued until the afternoon of Thursday. Early Thursday morning Mr. Wilcox, with his mother and sister, and Mrs. Hicks and daughter left our house and were able to cross to Oakland, where they got a train for Los Angeles. Dr. and Mrs. Whitney went to a friend's house. Early in the morning I went over to the California-Street power-house and had a talk with Superintendent Harris. He said that he had run out 20 cars, but as the water was shut off and very low in the boilers, it was not safe to get up steam, and he was unable to get horses to haul away the cars; so nothing could be done but await the result, which was that every car in the house and those in the street, some of them eight blocks away, 52 in number, were all burned. Not one was left. I came back to 1801 Van Ness Avenue. The wind was light but was from the northwest. At 9 A. M. I sent in my son's automobile my personal clothing, silverware, bedding, and linen to Mrs. Oxnard's, 2104 Broadway, and at 10:30 I had the rugs and some other things ready, and he took them to the Presidio. Matters about this time began to be rather wild. Van Ness Avenue was filled with people, all pale and earnest, every one loaded with bundles and dragging valises or trunks.

We concluded that it was best for Mrs. Winslow and the children to leave the city; so my son with his automobile took them to Burlingame. He had but little gasoline in his machine, and it was very doubtful if he had enough to make the run there and return. Not a drop could be obtained in the city. He learned that it might be obtained at the Washington-Street police station, so applied for some, but could get none, and barely escaped the appropriation of his machine by the police, by saying that he was preparing to take out of the city a load of women and children, and starting up suddenly and getting out of their reach. So, with the children, Mrs. Winslow, and a few articles of apparel hastily gathered together, he, by a circuitous and zigzag route, out of the city, made the trip and landed them safely in Burlingame at 4 o'clock. They could get no accommodation at the club, so they accepted the hospitality of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Coleman in a tent, and the next morning (Friday) went to Mr. and Mrs. Will Tevis's. Their kitchen chimney had not fallen, which made it possible to have cooking in the house, and as they had wells, the men put the pumps in order; so they had the luxury of a bath. When she left San Francisco she expected her own house and mine would certainly be burned. So, with

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